Taking My Hacks

Soaring Staple Cards

Joe Orlando

Over the past decade or so, there have been certain baseball cards that have increased in value substantially. I am not talking about cards that have enjoyed short term surges due to a fad or a temporary hot streak in the market. These are key cards, the types of cards that would act as the centerpiece of most collections.

Conversely, there have been baseball cards that have leveled out or even dropped in value during the same time period. Like many things in the hobby, the fluctuations in the market don't always make sense. For example, trying to explain why classic issues like 1933 Goudey and 1941 Play Ball have been relatively soft is tough to do.

Here are four staple cards that have soared during the last 10-15 years:

1) 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner – Yes, the king of all cards tops the list. All you have to do is look back at auction catalogue results from the late-1990s and you will be wishing you had a time machine right about now. PSA-graded Poor 1s and Good 2s were selling for less than $50,000 during that time. In recent years, PSA 1s have sold between $300,000-$400,000. In the mid-2000s, you could have owned a PSA Very Good 4 Wagner for around the same price and now it is worth near $2,000,000. The legend of this card keeps growing and growing.

2) 1909-11 T206 Ty Cobb with Ty Cobb Back – Here is a card that is, technically, much tougher to find than the Wagner card as less than 15 examples are known. As a result, it is gaining momentum as more and more collectors realize the scarcity and importance of this card. During the time of production, Cobb was undoubtedly considered the best player in baseball. That is the reason why Cobb was featured with so many different tobacco backs; moreover, it also explains why this special card was created in the first place. In the early-2000s, a PSA 2 example sold for less than $20,000 at auction. Today, even a PSA 1 would cost you close to $100,000.

3) 1915/16 Sporting News Babe Ruth Rookie – While there is no question that the 1914 Baltimore News Ruth card exists in smaller numbers, this is Ruth's true major league rookie card since he is pictured as a member of the Boston Red Sox. The image is a classic and it reminds us that Ruth really had two careers. People tend to forget that he was, arguably, the best left-handed pitcher in the game before becoming a full-time outfielder for the New York Yankees. For some period of time, this card was an afterthought for most collectors. In 2000, one of the best examples in the hobby sold for $18,725. It was graded PSA EX-MT 6. A PSA Near Mint 7 just sold for over $200,000 a few weeks ago.

4) 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle – There was a time, during the mid-to-late 1990s, when the 1951 Bowman Mantle was virtually even with the Topps classic in terms of market value. Boy, have times changed. The theory I used to hear then was that the Topps card was much easier to find in high-grade compared to the Bowman due to the 1980s find. The population report has helped prove that theory to be incorrect. As recently as 2002, some PSA NM-MT 8 Mantles sold for as little as $30,000. In the 1990s, they were selling in the $20,000 range. Several PSA 8 Mantles have sold between $75,000-$113,000 in recent years.

The four cards mentioned above are among the staple standouts during the last 10-15 years. Will these cards continue their trend or will four new staples steal the spotlight in the next decade or so? Only time will tell.

Never get cheated,

Joe Orlando

Joe Orlando
Editor In Chief